6 Surprising Jimmy Carter Facts You Should Definitely Know, Like The Time He Saw That UFO
Despite being one of only four living former presidents, there are a lot of facts about Jimmy Carter that today's generation might not know. Carter, who was president from 1977 to 1981, sometimes gets forgotten. Maybe it's because the 1970s were dominated by the memory of Richard Nixon, or maybe it's because Carter was unseated by Ronald Reagan after just one term. But although Carter's presidency wasn't perfect (whose is?), his administration oversaw some pinnacle points in American history.
Carter, who is now 90, is the second oldest president alive, after George Herbert Walker Bush, who is currently 91. When Carter was elected in 1976, he was considered to be an "outsider" and a departure from professional politicians. He took office just a few years after the Watergate scandal devastated Nixon's presidency, and the fact that Carter was a relative unknown was a selling point among many voters.
Carter was also the polar opposite of Nixon. He came from modest beginnings and had made his family's peanut farming business flourish before he climbed the political ladder in Georgia and eventually became governor. When he was elected, Carter became the first candidate from the Deep South to become president since before the Civil War. But that's not all — there are a lot of interesting and somewhat surprising things we've forgotten about Carter. So here's a refresher.
He Appeared In Playboy
No, you didn't read that wrong. During the 1976 election, when Carter was still governor of Georgia, he granted an interview with Playboy where he discussed the election, his life, and religion. Carter, who was a born-again Christian, got into some trouble when he told Playboy reporters, "I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes I will do — and I have done it — and God forgives me for it." While he's not the only politician to grant an interview to the magazine (former Vice President Dick Cheney had a full spread earlier this year), he was one of the first and one of the more shocking.
He Created The Department Of Energy And Put Solar Panels On The White House
While president, Carter had to handle one of the worse energy crises in American history. As a result, he created the Department of Energy to address the energy and fuel shortage wrecking havoc on the U.S. economy due to an oil embargo against Arabic countries. To help lead the nation in conserving energy, Carter had 32 solar panels installed in the White House that would act as water heaters. They're not there anymore — they were removed during the Reagan administration — but for a time they were pretty efficient.
He's Pretty Positive He Saw A UFO
In 1969, Carter and several others reportedly saw an unidentified object in the sky. Several years later, while governor of Georgia, Carter filed a report saying he saw an object with "very bright changing colors and about the size of the moon" and that it "hovered about 30 degrees above the horizon and moved in toward the earth and away before disappearing into the distance." He wasn't afraid to talk about his experience either and brought it up several times during his presidential campaign. Though some are convinced Carter actually saw Venus, he refutes this claim. According to Carter, he's an amateur astronomer and would have known what Venus looks like.
He Helped Secure Peace Between Egypt And Israel
One of the crowning achievements of the Carter administration was the 1978 Camp David Accords. As president, Carter helped broker peace between Egypt and Israel, which had waged war against each other since Israel was created in 1948. As a result of the accords, three decades of hostility were brought to an end, and the two countries finally recognized each other's governments. In 2002, he won the Nobel Peace Prize, partially because of his efforts with the Camp David Accords.
He Boycotted The 1980 Moscow Olympics
It's easy to forget that Carter did have a Cold War presidency, but when Soviet Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Carter issued an ultimatum: Remove your troops, or the United States wouldn't compete in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Russia ignored the ultimatum, and, true to his word, the United States stayed home. It was the first time in Olympic history that America didn't compete in the Olympic Games, and Carter was able to rally support for the boycott from other countries like West Germany, Japan, China, and Canada. Needless to say, the decision wasn't popular among many American athletes.
He's In Favor Of Cuban-American Relations
Long before President Obama rolled out his plan to fix U.S.-Cuban relations, Carter was long advocating for the two countries to be friends again. In 2002, Carter visited Cuba for three days, during which he gave a nationally televised speech advocating a plan to fix trade relations. In 2011, he visited again and spent time with President Raul Castro. When Obama announced his intention to ease sanctions against Cuba, Carter called the decision "courageous" and "long overdue."
To be fair to Carter, he may not have been regarded in the best way during his presidency. But since leaving office, he has worked tirelessly with the Carter Center to improve the lives of people all around the world. So while it's easy to remember him as the guy who saw the UFO, don't write him off so quickly.